The 4th of July is fast approaching, so Balladeer’s Blog will be squeezing in a few more holiday-themed posts up til then. In the past I’ve examined Revolutionary War privateers like John Haraden and Silas Talbot. This time around I’ll take a look at the controversial Luke Ryan.
Ryan was born in 1750 in Rush, Ireland and by the late 1770s he was an established smuggler. Captaining his ship the Friendship, Luke got commissioned in February of 1778 as a privateer for the British but would later switch to the American side.
The Friendship, with its 14 cannon and 60-man crew, sailed as a privateer vessel for King George III until April of 1779. Captain Ryan couldn’t resist pulling a side hustle against his ostensible employer England by smuggling some goods from Dunkirk, France to Rush, Ireland.
Some of Ryan’s crew didn’t like the way the spoils were divided from this extracurricular activity and informed the authorities about Luke’s smuggling offense. The Friendship was seized and hauled to Poolbeg and all crew members on board were arrested, then thrown into Black Dog Gaol. This happened on the night of April 11th into 12th.
Luke was not among those men on board at the time, so he organized a raid to bust his men free from Black Dog. The raid succeeded, following which the freed men and their liberators went to Poolbeg where they stole aboard the impounded Friendship and overpowered the guards.
The recovered vessel sailed to Rush before daybreak and with 18 additional men signing on, it was on to Dunkirk. Captain Ryan and his crew had committed a hanging offense by taking back the Friendship, so they decided to switch sides and become privateers for England’s enemies. Continue reading